The Rams didn’t just bring football glory to Los Angeles by beating the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday. They also reshaped the NFL quarterback market moving forward. While Matthew Stafford wasn’t the sole reason for L.A.’s big-game victory, his bold acquisition and 2021 production helped fuel the Rams’ Super Bowl berth. The Buccaneers made a similar investment in 2020, spending big on Tom Brady and winning it all as a result. It’s one thing to bank on Brady and be rewarded, however; it’s another to do so with Stafford. Suffice to say, other teams and QBs have even more reason to consider new marriages.
Which ones are most likely to make a Stafford- or Brady-esque move in 2022? Here are QBs and teams who could look to relocate for an instant shot at Super Bowl contention:
There are plenty of mid-tier starters who might prefer a better setup, but there are really only four QBs with enough pedigree to both request a move and conceivably put a contender over the hump in 2022:
He’d be the prime catch for any number of true contenders or fledgling playoff teams, and a year ago, he might actually have signed off on a move. But Rodgers has talked openly and repeatedly since the 2021 season ended about his improved relationship with Packers brass. Unless Green Bay completely botches its plan to manipulate the cap and go all in on Rodgers for 2022, the only scenarios that feel likely are Rodgers retiring or returning to Lambeau.
3. Matt Ryan
Ryan likes Atlanta, and Falcons coach Arthur Smith prefers he stick around. All indications are the two sides will stick together. But Ryan is pretty comparable to Stafford, in that he’s logged a solid, if unspectacular, career for one team but is now idling on a franchise in transition. Approaching 37, you don’t think he’d entertain a change of scenery for a quicker shot at an elusive title? As a bonus, the Falcons would instantly save money — and assuredly add a first-round pick — if they dealt him.
He comes with an asterisk, considering no one knows his football future; the former Pro Bowler is still facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct — a major and justified red flag for any potential acquiring team. But if the off-field issues are somehow resolved, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more appealing QB trade target. At 26, with three Pro Bowls under his belt and an already-public desire to move on from the Texans, he could be both a short- and long-term investment.
Wilson insists he’s planning to stay in Seattle and keep fighting for the Seahawks, and coach Pete Carroll would require an ultra-lucrative offer to hit the reset button at 70. But Russ literally had his agent identify preferred landing spots ahead of the 2021 season, and it’s very possible he could still look around and see better opportunities to win another title and build his legacy.
Management has endorsed Ryan Tannehill in the wake of his third straight playoff defeat, but that’s probably mostly because moving on from him would be tricky; they can’t feasibly cut him, and how many teams are eager to pay a premium for him approaching 34? But don’t you dare suggest their playoff-caliber team would be more like a championship-caliber team if they could pair Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and a feisty defense with Russ or Rodgers. Tannehill helped turn the Titans into what they are today, but Tennessee is ready to take the next step.
Yes, they’ve committed to Baker Mayfield for 2022, but in case you haven’t noticed, teams change their minds. Mayfield may very well improve with better heath and help, but unless he guides a deep playoff run, he doesn’t feel close to earning an extension. General manager Andrew Berry, who hails from the aggressive Eagles, could at least sniff around, considering his roster — when healthy — rivals the best teams in the league.
Washington has always been quick to gamble on veteran QBs, but Ron Rivera is now openly campaigning for a bigger swing after several years of toiling with journeymen starters. With young pieces on both sides of the ball in a winnable division, as well as ample cap space, they feel primed to throw out offers for just about any starting-caliber QB.
They’ve committed to young Jalen Hurts for 2022, but only until a better scenario presents itself. That’s how it works under GM Howie Roseman, who also happens to be one of the most trade-happy decision-makers in the NFL. Roseman has three first-round picks as ammo, and while his roster may have other holes, Philly at least made the playoffs in Nick Sirianni’s first go. With a legitimate passer, they could’ve threatened to make a run. The issue is the supply: Wilson and Watson (pending legal issues) feel like the only conceivable targets, but at what cost? They might rather invest through the draft.
Not only is owner Jim Irsay publicly and privately displeased with 2021 acquisition Carson Wentz, with ESPN reporting Sunday the Colts are likely to cut or trade the ex-Eagles standout, but they have the financial means to divorce him quickly; axing Wentz after just one year, despite trading multiple high picks for him, will save the Colts a pretty penny. Coach Frank Reich may vouch for Wentz, who’s proven serviceable if not special, but everyone in that building would be more confident about a title run with their run game and defense if, say, Russell Wilson were under center. They’re growing impatient post-Andrew Luck.
John Elway may not be running the show anymore, but he laid the blueprint for buying a title when he spent big for Peyton Manning back in 2012. With ex-Packers coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in tow, Rodgers will be the obvious target, but even if he can’t be pried from Green Bay, they have the run game, receiving corps and defense — not to mention cap space — to justify a big swing. They feel primed to try for both Watson and Wilson, and maybe even Kirk Cousins, who got a big deal from GM George Paton in Minnesota, before exploring cheaper alternatives.
They’ve done it before, and they’d do it again. Unless/until Tom Brady returns (which doesn’t seem impossible, but feels more likely in 2023), Bruce Arians will be eager to find a quick fix at QB. Cap gymnastics will be required, but they can sell big-name veterans on the Brady Trajectory — a move to sunny Florida, where team brass will be all in on accommodating the QB for an immediate championship window. They won’t settle for potential backup plans like Garoppolo or Jameis Winston until they exhaust the possibility of luring one of Rodgers, Watson or Wilson to Tampa.
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